It is now 50 years since mass tram services operated in the inner-west. Trams operated in the inner-west between 1882 and 1958 and were originally driven by steam power. From the early 1900s as Sydney’s electricity supply expanded, trams were converted to electric operation. Sydney‘s tramway system developed into the largest in the British Commonwealth outside of London and supplied transport to the growing suburbs.
At its peak in 1922 some 1,600 trams were operating across the city. Most inner-west trams operated from Fort Macquarie (today the site of the Sydney Opera House) and travelled down George Street. In peak periods additional services operated from Railway Square. Inner-west services were known as “red lines” services due to the red destination signage they displayed.
The controversial decision to phase out trams altogether in favour of government buses was made as early as 1938. Trams were blamed for traffic congestion in the city centre, and post-World War II as Australia’s car manufacturing industry bloomed interest groups such as the National Roads and Motorists’ Association and the Modern Road Transport Association lobbied government calling for the removal of trams from Sydney streets.
Services to Five Dock and Abbotsford were replaced by buses in 1955. The last tram services from Leichhardt and Balmain operated on Saturday 22 November,1958. The last tram service in Sydney operated from La Perouse to Maroubra on Saturday 25 February, 1961.